North Korea is ready for the next round of talks

Senior officials from South and North Korea are to meet early next week, a gathering Seoul's Unification Ministry said it would use to press Pyongyang to return to stalled six-party &to=http:// ' target=_blank>nuclear talks.

Rhee Bong-jo, Vice Unification Minister, told reporters that talks would be held in the North Korean city of Kaesong on May 16 and 17 to deal with the North's request for fertilizer assistance, tells Reuters.

Earlier in the day, Kwon Ho-ung -- who heads the North's delegation to the inter-Korean ministerial talks -- proposed the meeting in a telegram to Seoul's Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, the North's official mouthpiece KCNA said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Friday made his most blunt statement yet expressing Tokyo's frustration with Pyongyang.

Speaking to a parliamentary session, Mr. Machimura said Japan can no longer continue to sit motionless while Pyongyang refuses to cooperate in six-nation negotiations about its nuclear program.

Mr. Machimura is raising the possibility of referring North Korea's nuclear weapons to the United Nations Security Council for discussion of possible sanctions, a move Pyongyang has warned against.

Afterwards, Mr. Machimura told reporters that although Japan and other countries should still make efforts get the talks back on track, alternate options need to be kept in mind.

The Japanese foreign minister says his country is considering five-party talks if North Korea continues to boycott the negotiations.

Mr. Machimura first raised the idea of talks without &to=http:// ' target=_blank>North Korea in a meeting a week ago with the South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon.

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